WALTHAM FOREST: Ascham Homes performance worsens

The service provided by the organisation which manages council housing has worsened, according to a government watchdog.

The Audit Commission has handed Ascham Homes one star for its “fair” service to tenants, following an inspection earlier this year.

The arms length management organisation, which was set up to bring all council housing up to a basic standard of decency, was previously awarded two stars.

But the council was forced to bail out the organisation to the tune of £5 million after it failed in a legal bid to overturn a ruling preventing it charging leaseholders for work on blocks shared with tenants.

The Audit Commission said Ascham Homes has suffered from weak financial management and warned high operating costs were not resulting in an improved service.

Tenant satisfaction was assessed as low, despite improvements in recent years, and the organisation’s relationship with the council was deemed weak.

The organisation’s response to anti-social behaviour, domestic violence and harassment was described was also described as weak, as was service planning.

However, Ascham Homes was praised for being easily accessible and providing some good services for vulnerable people.

A high proportion of repairs were assessed as being carried out within target timescales.

The Audit Commission says that Ascham Homes, which has recently appointed Madeleine Forster as chief executive, is aware of its weaknesses and has plans in place to improve.

It is not yet clear how the new assessment score will effect future Ascham Homes funding.

In a joint statement, Ascham Homes and Waltham Forest Council said: "Waltham Forest Council and Ascham Homes jointly agree that the Audit Commission report represents a fair assessment of the services provided at the time of the Inspection, and welcome the positive comments about service improvements that have been made recently.

"For example, regarding the gas servicing, the significant increase in the repairs budget and rents and estate services.

"We are of course, disappointed with the overall result, and acknowledge that there is further work to be done to improve our services to customers and achieve the overall quality and standard that our residents deserve."

Comments (9)

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3:10pm Mon 24 May 10

Helen, Walthamstow says...

Well, what a surprise! Not!
Well, what a surprise! Not! Helen, Walthamstow
  • Score: 0

4:04pm Mon 24 May 10

Techno2 says...

'No-one at the council was available to comment'.

Maybe Councillor Pye is busy writing a detailed explanation for her role in the mystery of the money which 'went missing' from the BNI funds.
'No-one at the council was available to comment'. Maybe Councillor Pye is busy writing a detailed explanation for her role in the mystery of the money which 'went missing' from the BNI funds. Techno2
  • Score: 0

5:26pm Mon 24 May 10

May Buds says...

Plus ça change!
Plus ça change! May Buds
  • Score: 0

9:02pm Mon 24 May 10

md-j says...

'But the council was forced to bail out the organisation to the tune of £5 million ..'
No it wasn't: it chose to throw good money after bad. The question is whether Ascham would have been insolvent without this cash injection, and would therefore have been trading illegally without it.
The Council has an obligation to maintain its housing stock, but not to bail out any particular failed company; they could have brought the repairs in-house while they rethought the position, but it seems they decided to carry on investing in failure.Was this ever discussed in full Council?
The Chief Executive, Mr Auguste, had to be 'persuaded' - presumably with more of our cash- to resign. This raises another question: was there no power in the way the company was set up for the Council to sack him, or was it that he is a member of that lucky managerial elite who are not expected to suffer any adversity from their failings?
Yet another question: whose legal advice did Ascham disastrously follow, and why is the Council not suing that person or agency for our lost £5 million? BTW, you will find no mention of any of this on Ascham's website: it's yet another virtual world where everything is wonderful.

PS Do we have an opposition that has any interest in finding out how this mess came about, or will it yet again be up to ordinary residents to do the work?
'But the council was forced to bail out the organisation to the tune of £5 million ..' No it wasn't: it chose to throw good money after bad. The question is whether Ascham would have been insolvent without this cash injection, and would therefore have been trading illegally without it. The Council has an obligation to maintain its housing stock, but not to bail out any particular failed company; they could have brought the repairs in-house while they rethought the position, but it seems they decided to carry on investing in failure.Was this ever discussed in full Council? The Chief Executive, Mr Auguste, had to be 'persuaded' - presumably with more of our cash- to resign. This raises another question: was there no power in the way the company was set up for the Council to sack him, or was it that he is a member of that lucky managerial elite who are not expected to suffer any adversity from their failings? Yet another question: whose legal advice did Ascham disastrously follow, and why is the Council not suing that person or agency for our lost £5 million? BTW, you will find no mention of any of this on Ascham's website: it's yet another virtual world where everything is wonderful. PS Do we have an opposition that has any interest in finding out how this mess came about, or will it yet again be up to ordinary residents to do the work? md-j
  • Score: 0

10:14pm Mon 24 May 10

NT says...

Ordinary residents.
Ordinary residents. NT
  • Score: 0

10:23pm Mon 24 May 10

May Buds says...

CEOs are routinely rewarded for failure with a fat pay-off. This isn't the first case and I'm sure it won't be the last.
CEOs are routinely rewarded for failure with a fat pay-off. This isn't the first case and I'm sure it won't be the last. May Buds
  • Score: 0

9:57am Tue 25 May 10

everoptimistic says...

Sorry - is this the same Ascham Homes that has 7 smiley faces out of 9 in the 'Waltham Forest News' (what a joke title that is) that dropped through my letter box this morning?
Sorry - is this the same Ascham Homes that has 7 smiley faces out of 9 in the 'Waltham Forest News' (what a joke title that is) that dropped through my letter box this morning? everoptimistic
  • Score: 0

4:44pm Tue 25 May 10

md-j says...

The wfnews that came through my box this morning was dated 10 May, with almost no time left to comment on the Council's Planning policy '
consultation'; that leaves three days to try and get to our local libraries and ask why planning applications are no longer published, as the law requires, and why our Councillors tamely agreed to accept another 20,000 inhabitants in the next five years.
It seems that central government can change its plans almost daily according to the needs of the moment, but 20-year targets and strategies can be laid down on local government, regardless of what the electors may want.
The wfnews that came through my box this morning was dated 10 May, with almost no time left to comment on the Council's Planning policy ' consultation'; that leaves three days to try and get to our local libraries and ask why planning applications are no longer published, as the law requires, and why our Councillors tamely agreed to accept another 20,000 inhabitants in the next five years. It seems that central government can change its plans almost daily according to the needs of the moment, but 20-year targets and strategies can be laid down on local government, regardless of what the electors may want. md-j
  • Score: 0

4:53pm Tue 25 May 10

md-j says...

PS Ascham Homes website has no mention of Mr Auguste, or the £5 million cash injection, or this dire performance assessment.
Everything must be OK.
PS Ascham Homes website has no mention of Mr Auguste, or the £5 million cash injection, or this dire performance assessment. Everything must be OK. md-j
  • Score: 0

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